Sunday, February 18, 2018
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Free Naima Qorane: A prisoner of Conscience in Somaliland jails

By Ali H. Abdulla

Calanyohow babanayaa
Caku dunida oo idil
Cidaan kugu masaala
Kula cayn dhigaayaa
Caalaamkaba ma joogtoo
Ciiltire ayaad tahay
Cadawgaa ma ciil baxo.

Naima Abwaan Qorane 

Somaliland is a separatist enclave in Somalia that is ruled by former Somali National Movement (SNM) rebels who utilized the collapse of the central Somali government to declare an illegal one-sided secession from the Somali Republic. These former rebels turned politicians have no respect for international law, Human Right principles and customary Somali laws.

Naima A. Qorane

Despite holding elections funded by foreign powers that do not fully understand the Somaliland issue and unknowingly weaken Somali sovereignty, the behavior of the separatist leaders towards their captive residents falls far short of the principles of democratic norms. Freedom of speech and freedom of association are not respected in the enclave and anyone can lose his freedom easily for making public any personal views that come against the secessionist agenda of the enclave.

A well-trained and well-armed unit, again funded by the foreign powers for supposedly fighting against terrorists, is used against any resident perceived as a threat to the secessionist’s dogmatic hatred towards a united Somalia.  The Rapid Response Unit (RRU) is accused of terrorizing dissidents in the middle of the night by breaking into their homes forcefully and without court orders. It happened to many individuals perceived as enemies of the state.

Ordinary citizens, musicians, poets and businesspeople – except for a few powerful ones such as the owners of the money transfer company Dahab-Shiil – who travel to Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, risk being arrested and thrown in jail without due process. This happens mostly to young musicians and poets who show any signs of supporting Somali Unity.

Nimaan Hillaa, a well-known Somali musician, was recently chased all over his native town, Borame, by armed units of the RRU. The young musician is a Somali unionist who is known for powerful songs that promote Somali sovereignty and unity. He also holds regular concerts in Mogadishu that are very popular with the young Somalis even in the separatist enclave, Somaliland. Luckily, Nimaan managed to elude his would-be captors and escaped the dragnet of the RRU with the help of the Borame residents who mostly believe in Somali Unity but fear the wrath of the separatist’s powerful army which committed massacres in the city after the collapse of the Somali government in 1990.  These atrocities are well-documented.

Another victim who tasted the wrath of the former SNM rebels is a social activist known as AbdiMalik Oldoon who travels to Mogadishu regularly to promote Greater Somalia. He spent several months in jail until president Guelleh of Djibouti interceded on his behalf with the separatist leaders to let him go. Abdimalik manages donations from the Somali Diaspora for helping the poor and the destitute who are forgotten by the Separatist administration which is crippled by corruption and nepotism. Instead of providing clean water and paved roads for the public, the separatist enclave spends most of its budget on bribing clan elders to support their secessionist agenda, and on bolstering its military machine.

A few days ago, the separatists, targeted a budding young poet known as Naima Qorane. Her poetry is about Somali unity and sovereignty. One of her most powerful poems is “Dood Qaran”, “A debate about the Nation”. Another powerful poem extols Farmajo, the current president of Somalia, to be true to his oath and to work on rebuilding the Somali State. Her poems are powerful and rousing.

A few days ago, Naima came back from Mogadishu, where she works, to visit her father who was undergoing a surgical procedure in Hargeisa, the capital of the separatist enclave.  She was arrested at the airport on her return trip and taken directly to the Criminal Investigation Department HQ for interrogation. These jails have no proper facilities and can break the strongest of men. Ironically, Naima predicted her incarceration in an old interview and she declared her resolve to never give up her fight for Somali Unity no matter what. She was even threatened with bodily harm if she did not cease and desist from her call for Somali Unity.

The separatists fear poets and musicians the most since their words have the power to enlighten the thousands of Somaliland youth who have been brainwashed by the former SNM colonels running the show in Hargeisa. The separatists have been feeding their captive young people venomous thoughts about Somalis in the South who are portrayed as mortal enemies of Somaliland and its people and who are out to get them and destroy their enclave.

There is a symbol of hatred in Hargeisa in the form of an old MIG fighter that the long-gone regime of Siyad Barre used to bomb Hargeisa. The symbol is meant to remind the residents of Hargeisa about the ugly civil war that destroyed Hargeisa and rendered its residents refugees in camps across the border in Ethiopia which played a major role in the destruction of Somalia. The civil war was not confined to Hargeisa and its environs but affected the whole of Somalia. All Somalis suffered from the heavy-handedness of the Somali regime. Compare that to South Africa where the white minority that persecuted the black people for decades were in the end forgiven in the interest of moving forward. Only true leaders like Nelson Mandela are capable of such magnanimity and vision. In contrast, the separatist leaders want to hold a section of the Somali people hostages of hatred and vindictiveness.

In 2012, the author and a colleague nearly suffered the same fate as Naima when we attended a unionist conference in the historic town of Taleh, the old base for the Somali freedom fighters between 1899 and 1920 under the leadership of Sayed Mohamed Abdulla Hassan who resisted British domination for 21 years and was finally defeated by the first aerial bombardment in Africa. On our way back, we travelled through a unionist town controlled by a local militia on the payroll of the separatist administration in Hargeisa. The local militia did not bother us since their loyalty to the separatist leaders in Hargeisa was based on the monthly salaries they received and was not based on the twisted ideology of breaking up the Somali Republic. When the separatist leadership in Hargeisa sent a contingent of soldiers to arrest us, the whole town came out to defend us and stood up to the separatist soldiers who fled the scene after a brief gun-fight to our relief. We continued our journey by doubling back through Puntland which gave us safe passage through Galkayo. Our only crime was to attend a conference that stood for Somali Unity and Integrity. The incident also shows the precarious support for the separatists in towns they claim to control.

On the same day that we were being stalked by the separatist forces, their main army attacked a unionist town called Buhodle. Hundreds of innocent kids lost their lives on both sides, but the separatists failed in their quest of capturing the town and bending its people to their ill-conceived separatist wishes. This incident shows that the separatists are ready to use force and shed Somali blood for achieving their goal of dismembering the Somali Republic.

Coming back to Naima and her predicament, the President of the Somali Republic and his Prime Minister remain silent about her illegal incarceration. Naima is in jail because of the Somali flag which they are bound to defend and uphold. The Somali government in Mogadishu should challenge the illegal action of the separatists and work on her unconditional and immediate release. They can engage third parties if need be. I remember a moving story about a Muslim lady who was insulted by a Roman ruler and thrown in jail. After the lady sought the help of the Muslim Caliph Al-Mutasim, the latter responded by demanding her immediate release and putting pressure on the Romans to let her go. The least that the Somali government can do is to say in a loud voice “Free Naima Qorane”.

Since she is a prisoner of conscience, International Human Right organizations should also take up her case and demand her immediate release.

Finally, we as Somali unionists who hail from Northern Somalia also demand the release of our daughter and sister Naima Ahmed Ibrahim Qorane who proudly calls herself “Naima Abwaan Qorane”, a reference to her father being a poet as well.

Ali H. Abdulla
Email: aliegeh@gmail.com


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